[Update: NASA on-duty flight director interview] Watch the moment things went wrong when Nauka joined the ISS [Video]

Earlier this week Russia launched their newest module to the International Space Station. After a rough orbit insertion, Nauka caused even more issues when it started firing its thrusters while attached to the International Space Station. Video shows Nauka’s docking mishap.

NASA stated that no astronauts were in any danger during the inadvertent thruster firings. Despite this assertion, the station lost attitude control after Nauka fired its thrusters. NASA said the ISS was tilted 45 degrees out of its nominal orientation. While may not seem like big deal since they are in space (they can just spin around and not hit anything right?), this actually meant the solar panels and radiators had to be repositioned to continue to operate nominally. Communications were also temporarily lost with the station and had to be regained multiple times.

While NASA said it was only a 45-degree tilt, others are thinking it moved much more than that. One of the flight directors that was on duty during the issue said the 45-degree report was “premature” and “we proceeded to do headstands and cartwheels.” A new video from Liam Kennedy, who regularly shares time-lapses from the ISS’s onboard cameras, shows the moment Nauka began firing its thrusters after docking. In his opinion, he said it looked like “the station completely flipped over”. Since you could start seeing the light from the Earth show as it turns over.

Due to Nauka’s docking incident, the launch of Boeing’s Starliner was delayed to no earlier than Tuesday, August 3rd. This improved the weather forecast but means the launch is now closer to the launch of Northrup Grumman’s Antares rocket, which is also headed to the ISS and will most likely get priority if Boeing’s launch slips more.

Flight Director during emergency was “impromptu” on duty

The veteran flight directer Zebulon Scoville, who we quoted earlier, was in charge only out of luck. Gregory Whitney, a NASA flight director since 2011, was on shift but had a meeting to attend after Nauka successfully docked.

Scoville, in an interview with The New York Times, stated he worked on preparations for Nauka so “I decided to put on a tie and just go and watch it from the viewing gallery behind the control room.” He impromptu took over for Whitney and almost soon after the chaos began. For the first time in Scoville’s career, he had to declare a spacecraft emergency.

Under the command of him and directors in Russia, the crew was able to secure the station and counteract the thruster firings. Scoville thanked his training for being able to handle the emergency, something NASA has proud itself on for decades.

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